Improved working conditions and energy efficiency have helped create a virtuous circle for the Canadian manufacturer of active wear.
Textile and clothing manufacturers need to be conscious of working conditions including the physical state of factories and their treatment of employees – particularly in emerging markets – to maintain the integrity of their reputations in the industry that originated the ‘sweatshop’ tag.
Between 2002 and 2004, serious allegations about exploitative labour practices were levelled at Montreal-based apparel maker Gildan. Following these claims, the company underwent an externally verified remediation process to improve practices at its production sites in Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. The result was the Gildan Code of Conduct, and this marked the start of the company’s development of best-in-class environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices within its industry. This discipline has helped the company improve productivity, lower costs and generate stronger returns for shareholders.
In the rapidly evolving US economy, businesses with strong fundamentals will survive and prosper. At Hermes, we look for companies that have enduring competitive advantages. Here, we highlight a financial opportunity that we believe will thrive in the coming months and years.
Many market observers are anticipating a prosperous year for the US economy. Falling unemployment, rising wages and gradual growth have all laid the foundation for companies to outperform their developed market peers. Meanwhile, the new political government, under President Trump, is expected to introduce several favourable policies, including tax cuts, regulatory changes and repatriation of overseas profits.
President Trump’s pro-growth agenda, centred on fiscal stimulus, repatriation and de-regulation, should accelerate the US economy in the coming years. Nevertheless, his more measured recent speech to Congress was perhaps the first acknowledgement that the implementation of these policies will likely take time and require Republican endorsement. Mindful of this, it’s important to focus on pre-existing economic fundamentals as much as fiscal promises when looking to invest in the US. Domestically-focussed small and mid-cap companies are well positioned to continue to benefit from a healthy and improving US economy alongside any fiscal policies that may take time to come through.
The data simply proved too strong: as expected, the Federal Reserve has increased the base US interest rate to 75bps amid strengthening economic indicators. These include:
•Growth: GDP increased at an annualised rate of 3.2% in Q3, and was followed by a recent surge in services activity last month
•Unemployment: the jobless rate fell to 4.6% in November, its lowest level in more than nine years
•Inflation: the Consumer Price Index rose 1.5% in the year to September, suggesting that inflationary pressures are rising
The central bank’s willingness to hike was evident in the Federal Open Market Committee’s minutes from its November meeting, which stated: “Members generally agreed that the case for an increase in the policy rate had continued to strengthen”.
Our view is that US interest rates will likely continue to chart an upward trajectory as the extraordinary monetary policies of the post-financial crisis era give way to pro-growth fiscal stimulus and deregulation. We believe that this environment favours small- and mid-cap (SMID) stocks.